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Nerando Johnson
Nerando Johnson

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Now What : How To Keep Learning after Landing the 1st Tech Job

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If you are not like me or a couple of people I know, you have managed to keep create a good strategy that maintains healthy learning habits. In a sentence, I screwed up on this career development aspect after my first job. I made the mistake of getting the job and not understanding that this was also my career (MISTAKES WERE MADE 🥹), I had a limited long-term outlook,
*(again, mistakes were made *. Upon some reflection and good discussions, here are some gained takeaways on how to continue learning after getting the job.

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Can we all agree that rest is an intricate part of productivity? Job hunting is challenging, both emotionally and physically. It requires relearning a lot of things, growth in new areas such as interviewing (technical and soft skills), networking and utilising old and new projects ( adding features and extending areas of comprehension). When you make it through this rigorous lineup and your offer is negotiated, signed and background check passed, you have successfully landed the position. Start by resetting your mind, your schedule and your routines, and focus now on tooling for the new job, lightly. I took myself to my favourite bookstore and had a field day.

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After week one or three of onboarding, you should have a good sense of your new workspace's pace. It's time to start acquiring new skills; start by making or keeping notes on what has been learnt during the day and what questions you may have. Review these notes to use as talking points in your one-on-ones, your work mentor checking or queries to do some research on. Two examples of good note-taking methods are the Cornel note-taking method and the outline method.

It is imperative that you seek to understand how technical problem-solving is handled and who and/or what are the resources to get you unstuck writer's plug: watch this video I did on problem-solving. A common suggestion is to keep a gist or google document containing non-proprietary tips, configs and tooling that is used and helps to make your workflow easier.

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This is a new team or, in some rare cases, a new project. You need to look into the tech stack, decompose it and figure out what you are competent at, suck at, and what you know well. Some teams and companies have a process to bring the new hires up to speed, some have a person that handles this process and others have a list with resources or courses to complete.
The point of the resource/person is to meet you where you are technically and bring you up to speed with your new team. Take time to familiarize yourself with the new tools of your trade and ask a lot of questions. Stop worrying, it's gonna take time for you to get used to everything.

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“Use it or lose it", wiser words have never been said. A practical approach is to learn more from building new personal projects than tutorials. Make notes about what you want to build (project requirements) and create a project based on what you know, add stretch. If the project is built using a tutorial, add something extra to it. While you’re at it, create understandable documentation, write tests and push it to a live environment or make it usable, here is another reference point. The aim is to use these side projects to become better at our craft as we are the product of what we do.

If you feel overwhelmed, follow this simple rule: "start where you care and use what you have". These small steps will develop competent with the knowledge and skills you know. Remember to be consistent and pace yourself with learning new skills and tools. Schedule it, get an accountability buddy or participate in a group project. Another thing to remember is contributing to open-source projects will take you a little bit out of your technical comfort zone but it is also a great way to retain and grow your current skills.

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Remit A.K.A. Pay It Forward

This one is rather simple but hard, in essence, the concept is contronym-ish. It should be easy to do but some days, waaaay harder to execute than said. The art of bundling knowledge to make it understandable to another person than yourself is harder than you think.
Do it anyway and if you are lost, the rule of thumb is to explain the technical concept like you are talking to a 10-year-old. Make time to help someone, figure out how to be a good mentor, create a lightning talk or write a blog post( be it a technical topic or one that covers soft skills, your call). Remember to remain an active participant in your developer community (online, offline, or both), just be present contributing and participating.

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As our craft is only a part of what we do, we have to make a concentrated effort to relax. If you read, sew, knit, go to the gym, or make guitars, do it often. Schedule it and do it often, hobbies and practised interests are essential as life is more than work or our chosen career. We have sufficient studies and stories that speak to the importance of taking the PTO, going on vacation or going for the walk. My learnt lesson was that any form of relaxation is important. The common consensus is to make or take time to unwind.

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In getting your first tech job, there has been the habit to drop off. The suggested approach is to learn to recuperate from the job hunting or deal, reset how your work environment, learn how to use the new skills to retool, keep the side project going to retain and gain new knowledge. Take time to pay it forward in any way possible and finally, make time to relax. Find me @nerajno if you would like to chat, my DMs are open.

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My secret sauce is that I have an editor and I tend to just string together ideas, try to make sense of my thoughts
and then she tends to help me make sense of it all to the world. Her name is Joy. She is a storyteller, home cook, poet, and writing consultant. She enjoys talking about building communities and the human condition. If you find her in a bookstore, approach her carefully with snacks.


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